For the past two weeks the army has been raiding the village of Nabi Saleh almost every night. Last night’s highlights: armed soldiers surround children’s beds, and confiscate computers and school notebooks.
It’s little after 2:00 a.m. Soldiers are once again in the streets of Nabi Saleh. Ever since weekly demonstrations against the settlements started in this small village, night raids by the army have become a part of life. In the past two weeks, military action has intensified, and only few nights were soldier-free. At times they try to arrest someone, at times they’re there for a search, and sometimes just to see who is living in each house, taking residents’ pictures and IDs.
Bilal Tamimi, a local photographer, recorded last night’s raid with his video camera. It shows the soldiers on the street, trying to prevent him from filming and eventually giving up. After a short while the soldiers enter the home of
Naji Tamimi Bassem Tamimi, a prominent activist who has been in prison for almost a year, and who is facing charges of incitement, based on loose evidence achieved from the village youth in questionable interrogations. Tamimi has been recognized by the EU as a human rights defender, and his trial sessions are attended by diplomats from many countries. Inside the house we see two women, one of them also filming the soldiers. From this point on they keep asking the soldiers to explain themselves, but an officer is heard repeatedly ordering his troops, “Don’t answer them.” The prevailing 45-year-old military regime in the West Bank does not require soldiers to obtain a search warrant in order to invade a house or confiscate people’s belongings.
The soldiers then enter a bedroom, where two young children are seen asleep in a single bed. The armed soldiers, some of them masked, spend some three minutes in the room, opening drawers and closets and confiscating papers and notebooks, as one of the children views them with fear from under the blanket. After visiting another child’s room, the soldiers leave, shoving aside the owner of the house who is shouting at them that they are thieves, and that they don’t scare her.
(Video translation: Institue for Middle East Understanding)
The video does not show a second search the soldiers carried out in the house of
Bassem Tamimi Naji Tamimi, another activist who was recently released from jail after having been arrested for organizing demonstrations. By the end of the two searches in both houses, four computers have been confiscated, as well as a camera, several CDs, a gas mask, birth certificates, personal papers and children’s notebooks.
Shortly before the end of video, when all the children of the house have already been awoken and have gathered in the living room, an officer is heard saying to his troops, “Guys, they’re doing this on purpose for the video.” This is an amazing sentence worth considering, especially as I’ve heard it said by officers in many similar situations.
I think it is safe to say that the speaker felt obligated to say it, as he did not feel completely at ease with what was taking place: standing there, a group of armed men, some of them masked, in a living room with children and women, in the dead of night, taking away computers and notebooks. In a way, he must have been trying to escape this feeling by saying, “Hey guys, you know, it’s just a game really, a play the Arabs are putting on so they can tell the world how horrible we are.”
But does he believe himself? Do his soldiers? Is it possible that any of them actually believes that the Palestinians are somehow responsible for setting up this horrific scene in which they, the soldiers, invaded the house and woke the children up? The answer is that they probably do believe so. They believe because the alternative would be to recognize that they’re doing something wrong, and nobody wants to do that. Perhaps one day, in the future, looking back at it all, they’ll begin to ask questions about their military service. And perhaps not. Slim are the chances that they will ever realize that it was they themselves who were part of a scheme that was only meant for a show – a show of force meant to deter the village from continuing its struggle.